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Vox Tablet

Author: Vox Tablet

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This is Vox Tablet, the weekly podcast of Tablet Magazine, the online Jewish arts and culture magazine that used to be known as Our archive of podcasts is available on our site, Vox Tablet, hosted by Sara Ivry, varies widely in subject matter and sound -- one week it's a conversation with novelist Michael Chabon, theater critic Alisa Solomon, or anthropologist Ruth Behar. Another week brings the listener to "the etrog man" hocking his wares at a fruit-juice stand in a Jersualem market. Or into the hotel room with poet and rock musician David Berman an hour before he and his band, Silver Jews, head over to their next gig. Recent guests include Alex Ross, Shalom Auslander, Aline K. Crumb, Howard Jacobson, and the late Norman Mailer.

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206 Episodes
So Long, Farewell

So Long, Farewell


Since 2005, the Vox Tablet team—producer Julie Subrin and host Sara Ivry—have done our best to create a Jewish podcast with conversations, stories, and reports from across the Jewish cultural world. But good things—even pioneering, award-winning podcasts—come to an end, and their makers move on to new adventures elsewhere. In our final episode, we take a brief walk down memory lane to some of our favorite moments from the past decade. Among highlights we feature are our visits with actor Fyvush Finkel; illustrator and author Roz Chast; Silver Jews’ frontman David Berman; tourists en route to the Statue of Liberty; South African justice Albie Sachs; attendees at an annual deli luncheon in a small Mississippi town; Israeli musician Noam Inbar; and West Side Story aficionado Alisa Solomon. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Exactly a century ago, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. After a contentious confirmation process, he became the first Jewish justice, serving on the bench for 23 years. His rulings on privacy, workers’ rights, and free speech feel as relevant today as they did when he issued them, and his foresight, wisdom, and clear-spokenness cemented his reputation as nothing short of a visionary.In Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet, writer Jeffrey Rosen explores Brandeis’s personal and professional life. He joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss the influence Thomas Jefferson had on Brandeis—known as the "Jewish Jefferson," the justice’s ruling in Whitney v. California—a landmark free speech case, and why Brandeis is uniquely relevant in the fractious political climate of our day. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Tanya's Story

Tanya's Story


Tanya Zajdel grew up in a Hasidic family in Montreal and was excited to embark on her life as a wife and mother after marrying a charismatic rabbinical student when she was 19. It didn’t take long, though, for Tanya to realize that her marriage was not going to be as she’d expected. No matter how hard she tried to live up to the ideal of the perfect Jewish wife—supportive, modest, an upholder of shalom bayit, or “peace in the home”—her husband responded with increasingly volatile and sometimes violent behavior.It took Tanya a long time to figure out how to do the right thing for herself and her family. This is her story, brought to us by producers Shea Shackelford andTori Marlan. A warning to sensitive listeners: This piece includes descriptions of violence. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Earlier this year, the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement put out a new prayer book, or siddur. Siddur Lev Shalem, which means ‘full heart,’ is full of innovations. There are new translations of traditional prayers. Poems are included. There are commentaries on different parts of the Sabbath and holiday services. There are straightforward explanations of simple rites and gestures, like when and why to bow during the Amidah. The last time the Conservative movement published a new siddur was 15 years ago—not so very long. What compelled rabbis to put together a new siddur so soon? How does it differ from what preceded it?Rabbi Edward Feld, who oversaw the creation of Siddur Lev Shalem, joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to talk about the whats, whys, and hows behind this new prayer book. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Rob Weisberg, the host of the world music radio program Transpacific Sound Paradise, joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to talk about a trio of new genre-bending projects: A-Wa, Sandaraa, and Schizophonia. A-Wa are Israeli sisters of Yemeni ancestry who invoke the music of legendary singer Ofra Haza. Sandaraa joins Pashtun songs from Pakistani singer Zeb Bangash with the Eastern European klezmer clarinet of Michael Winograd. And Schizophonia, a project of guitarist Yoshie Fruchter, reconceives cantorial songs by setting them in a rock and roll context.Weisberg shares a bit of background about each project and we listen in for ourselves to these energetic and riveting sounds. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Barbra Streisand turns 75 next year. In her 50-plus year career, she has made her mark on the silver screen, on Broadway, in nightclubs, and on the record charts. Her beginnings were humble—she grew up poor and scrappy in Brooklyn with a mother and stepfather who were far from encouraging, and knew early on that she wanted to be a star regardless of her unconventional looks and comportment. How did she do it? What was the source of her broad appeal? And why does she stand out as a unique cultural figure in the landscape of so-called ethnic performers?Writer Neal Gabler tackles these and other questions in Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power, a new title in Yale University Press’s Jewish Lives Series. Gabler joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss Streisand as an ersatz Christ figure, how she has functioned as a metaphor for American Jewishness, and the deep debt she's owed by Melissa McCarthy and Adele. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Especially in election season, we love talking about the moral fiber (or lack thereof) of our candidates. But when it comes to ethics, no man—or woman—is an island. Host Sara Ivry talks to Professor of Religious Studies Heidi Ravven about the myth of "free will," and how neuroscience along with philosophical traditions from Aristotle to Maimonides to Spinoza may offer more useful ways for us to think about how to foster ethical behavior and moral societies. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Host Sara Ivry talks to writer Adina Hoffman about her new book, Till We Have Built Jerusalem, which brings to life three architects who transformed the city in the days of the British Mandate. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Bathe in the Waters

Bathe in the Waters


Traditionally, Orthodox Jews submerge themselves in mikvehs—ritual baths—to purify themselves. Producer Hannah Reich has always been drawn to water—to rivers, oceans, pools—and was fascinated by the idea that ritual submersion sanctifies the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. At the same time, though, she was conflicted over how such an act can be reconciled with feminism and acceptance of the body as is. Through mikveh visits and in conversations with the ‘Mikvah Lady’ of Melbourne, the first female rabbi in the Southern Hemisphere, and other Jewish women, she explores these questions in “Immersion.” This documentary first aired on the program Earshot from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Beyond Drake

Beyond Drake


February is Black History month. To celebrate, Tablet contributor and JN Magazine editor MaNishtana is writing a series of blog posts introducing readers to Jews of Color whose religious affiliation you might not have known. Think: less Drake, more Lani Gunier. MaNishtana joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss the whats and hows of this project, his own Jewish roots, and why questions about the different parts of his identity makes no sense. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
A short-story collection that revolves around the Holocaust is a tough sell. Make it colorful, or optimistic, and it’s pure fairytale. Dwell on the ugliness, the death and depravity, and it becomes perverse–or simply unbearable. Besides, what is there left to say?Then along comes In the Land of Armadillos, by Helen Maryles Shankman, a New Jersey-based writer and painter. The eight stories in the collection are interwoven, and all but one take place in or around the remote Polish town of Wlodawa. Shankman shows us a world in which German officers, Poles, and Jews regularly cross paths. It’s a... Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
When we think of Groucho Marx, we think of a giant of comedy. From his cigar to his wisecracks, Groucho, along with his brothers, established the fundamentals of American comedy. Indeed, it was he who first said he’d want no part of a club that would have him as a member—a notion made famous by a Brooklyn-bred heir named Woody Allen.As critic Lee Siegel argues in Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence, Marx’s humor was predicated on disdain toward others—he was hardly a cuddly character, or a champion of the downtrodden, as critics and fans alike have painted him. Groucho and his brothers were all about disrupting social norms and... Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
A Year of Firsts

A Year of Firsts


In 2008, at the age of 23, Luzer Twersky left his wife, his children, and the Hasidic community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, to try to make a new life for himself. He was tired of pretending to feel and believe things he no longer felt or believed. Since then, Twersky has gone on to become an actor; he now lives in Los Angeles, and has a leading part in Felix and Meira, Canada’s submission for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, as well as a small part in the second season of the Amazon TV series Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
As Christmas 1963 approaches, a statue of the baby Jesus goes missing from the town manger in Skokie, Illinois. Its theft causes great distress to nearly everyone, including 9-year-old, flaxen-haired Suzie Louise Anderson. In the hopes of becoming her hero and solidifying their love, Suzie Louise’s young boyfriend, a Jew, cobbles together a posse to try to recover the stolen figure, and to restore joy and peace to the girl’s life.Read by Ken Marks, ‘For the Love of Suzie Louise’ is adapted from the novel My Surburban Shtetl, by Robert Rand. Sound design is by Jonathan Groubert. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
The antithesis of nearly every Holocaust movie ever made, the Hungarian film Son of Saul is slim on happy endings. Directed by László Nemes, it tells the story of a member of the Sonderkommando, the Jews who ushered their co-religionists off the trains into the showers and who, after the gassings, cleared those showers out to ready them for the next batch of victims. Saul, portrayed by Géza Röhrig, is shaken out of his numbness and despair by the body of a child who survives the gassing and suddenly, amid the true-life rebellion of the Sonderkommando in October 1944, engages in his own form of resistance.With a camera that rarely takes... Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Girlhood, Interrupted

Girlhood, Interrupted


The steady stream of people currently fleeing Syria for Europe is a sobering sight, but it’s not a new one. The plight of refugees all over the world is age-old. Cynthia Kaplan Shamash was a child refugee in 1972, when her family—among Iraq’s last Jews—tried to flee their homeland. Their first attempt was thwarted, and the family landed in jail. A second attempt was a success; Cynthia is now a dentist in the United States, but the family’s itinerancy came with great personal losses.In The Strangers We Became: Lessons in Exile From One of Iraq’s Last Jews, Shamash details her family’s exile from Iraq to Israel to the Netherlands. She joins Vox... Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Mimi Stillman is a world-renowned flutist heralded by the New York Times as “a consummate and charismatic performer.” Stillman is the founder and artistic director of the Dolce Suono Ensemble, a Philadelphia-based chamber group. Also a historian, she brings both interests—history and music—to bear on her latest release, an album called Freedom.Freedom features compositions by Richard Danielpour, David Finko, and the late Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Sweet Madeleine

Sweet Madeleine


Best known for his seven-volume masterpiece A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time), French writer Marcel Proust is considered to be one of the finest novelists of the 20th century. Though born into upper-class society—his Catholic father was a doctor and his Jewish mother came from a well-known Jewish family—Proust did not show much ambition or aptitude as a young man. Indeed, he was a dilettante and man about town who spent his time having love affairs and squandering an inheritance.As biographer Benjamin Taylor makes clear in Proust: The Search, all... Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Puzzle Master

Puzzle Master


A genizah is an area in a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where sacred texts that are in disuse are stored. Traditionally, a text is considered sacred if it’s got the name of God written on it, whether in a liturgical form or simply in a greeting like “Praise Be to the Almighty” written at the top of a letter. The most famous genizah was in Cairo at the Ben Ezra synagogue. It held documents dating to the 9th century; those documents helped scholars piece together what life was like for Jews in the middle ages. Until fairly recently, people who studied genizah fragments mostly looked at the Hebrew or Aramaic, piecing together documents to figure... Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
The name Guggenheim is synonymous with modern art. That's thanks to Solomon Guggenheim and his famous museum on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Credit also goes to his niece Peggy, who championed icons like Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky and established influential galleries in New York, London, and Venice, where she eventually settled. Guggenheim also lived a unique personal life; she was twice married—once to the painter Max Ernst—and claimed in her memoirs to have had a thousand lovers, including Samuel Beckett.How did she become a key figure in the modern art landscape? What personal demons did fight along the way? What is her legacy? These are questions writer Francine Prose tackles in... Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
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